Updated: Nov 16, 2020
Written by: Gianna Adonteng
1.What was eating like growing up with your families, and how have you incorporated those aspects into Gan Bei Gals?
Growing up, eating looked different for each of us, but we can all agree that our families always made it a point to sit down at the dinner table and eat dinner together.
Gabby's family is a very food-first, so much to the point where they planned trips solely around food. She has a big extended family that likes to cook together, and food was always abundant and indulgent at family gatherings and potlucks.
Michelle's mom always cooked dinner and only missed like two nights out of her entire childhood. Her parents live in Taiwan now, but they stay connected by texting each other pictures of food they eat or cook.
For Jackie, food served as a medium for kinship at family gatherings. Her parents have very different taste in foods, which led to a lot of contention around the dinner table. As she grew up and moved away, she found herself becoming nostalgic for dishes that she remembered not liking growing up. Now, she's tried to cultivate a relationship with her family around food where there wasn't much of a connection there before.
We draw a lot of inspiration from our childhoods and our own nostalgia - foods we grew up eating and the memories, smells and feelings we remember.
2.How did you come up with the name of your business?
Gan Bei is a Mandarin phrase meaning “cheers” or "dry your cup.” We started Gan Bei Gals to celebrate our shared Asian-American culture through food, stories and art. For us, food is how we connect not only with our culture, but also with friends, family and even strangers.
3.What is your favorite dish on your menu, and what is it inspired by?
Our menus are constantly rotating, but one of our past favorites was Grandma Phi's Red Rice. It's Gabby's grandma's recipe that she adapted and made for a recent Gan Bei Gals pop-up. Gabby would always request this rice whenever she came to visit her grandma. It's savory, buttery, garlicky and goes well with any protein or stands up on its own.
4.How has COVID-19 affected your business, and how have you managed to overcome these challenges, especially the stigma surrounding Asian Americans because of COVID-19?
We had a lot of events planned for 2020, and obviously COVID-19 stopped them from happening. But since we are a pop-up experience and we aren't tied to a physical space, we can easily pivot and have been hosting virtual events and doing contactless pickup! It's been difficult because we want to be able to create the same feeling of community and provide the same value from our in-person events, virtually. We've had a lot of fun challenging ourselves to engage our audience in new, fun ways since we can't reach or see them in person.
5. What’s something you’ve learned about Asian representation and your culture since launching Gan Bei Gals?
That there really isn't one right way to represent Asian culture as a unified whole. There are so many different subsets of the Asian-American identity and each person's experience is unique their background and therefore unique to themselves. We aren't here to tell people which way is more "authentic", but rather to accurately portray our own experiences growing up as Asian-American women in Texas.
6. Are you working on any projects for Gan Bei Gals that you’re excited about?
Yes, lots of things in the works! Right now. we're dedicating almost all of our time behind-the-scenes to a holiday zine scheduled to launch in early 2021. We crowdsourced recipes from our audience from varying cultural backgrounds and are working with a local risograph printing studio to create a recipe book.
We're also hosting a virtual Friendsgiving cooking class with the classic Vietnamese dish bánh xèo as well as collaborating with some local Austin organizations for online events.
7.What do you want guests to see or take away from the Asian culture when they look at your dishes and what you’ve created?
First and foremost, we hope that people love our food— deliciousness is a priority. Secondly, we hope our food is a way for people to come together over a shared meal, whether it's in relation to the food or with each other. Food is such an integral part of Asian culture, and bonding over a good meal is still one of the best ways to foster community.
8.Gan Bei Gals is a pop up shop, so how has it given you freedom to explore, work with causes that you believe in, and create dishes that you love?
As a pop-up, we aren't tied to a physical space and the financial responsibility that comes with that. Our audience is also very supportive of how we pivot which we appreciate. One day we might feel like putting on a family-style dinner pop-up and another day it could be a workshop or fundraiser. In general, we like coming up with ideas for Gan Bei Gals as our own personal nostalgia reminds us of a childhood experience we want to recreate. That said, I think we relate more to being a pop-up experience over a pop-up shop as consumption is not a strong priority when we consider what we want to do next.
9.What are your future plans for Gan Bai Gals? What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
Lots of collaborations with more Asian-American groups, more BIPOC-owned small businesses, and more women-owned business as well. We have so many potential ideas for what this might become later down the line but for now, we are really enjoying the traction and engaging with our local community.
10.You’ve truly created something amazing in not a long period of time, so what advice would you share with others wanting to start their own business doing what they love, also while representing their culture?
Thank you! This sounds cheesy and is way oversaid, but just start! If you're sharing something authentic to you such as your own culture, people will resonate with that. Some people will relate directly due to their shared cultural experiences, and hopefully others will come from a place of respect and genuine curiosity.